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bernard's story

HOST: Our next story is from Bernard Skelton. Bernard has been involved with Friends of Island Academy since he was sixteen years old.

BERNARD: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.My name is Bernard Skelton, twenty-three years old. I was born in Queens, but I grew up in the Bronx.

(Music)

I love to write, and I been writing since I was in junior high school, so it's one of the things I do no matter where I'm at. I could be in the bus, the train. If I feel that something upstairs is brewing, I'll just find my book and start writing in it, stuff like that.

(Music)

(Rapping) Daddy, what's that, question after question as I sat, wearing my fatherhood hat, so I can raise this cat, feeding him enormous amounts of info as we chat.

(Music)

I just write about life because I want people one hundred years from now see what it was like at the beginning of the new millennium and the kind of hardship certain people went through and things that we had to deal with.

(Music)

TYREIK: My name is Tyreik Deshawn Skelton.

BERNARD: Where you live at?

TYREIK: In the Bronx.

BERNARD: What you like the most about the Bronx?

TYREIK: Ice cream cones.

BERNARD: Ice cream cones?

TYREIK: Yeah.

BERNARD: A lot of my writings are about my son. Tyreik's real intelligent and husky, like I was when I was a kid. But he's not going to grow up into what I did. I was bad. I used to be a stick-up kid. I robbed livery cab drivers, the Chinese food delivery man. One night, me and a bunch of guys were drinking forties and we ran out of money so we drove around the Bronx for hours, just robbing people.

(Music)

We got to co-op city and tried to stick up some dude at this bus stop at like four o'clock in the morning. And he didn't have nothing but a Walkman and his lunch. And the cops just come up from out of nowhere. That was the beginning of the end. That's what I wound up getting sent up the river for.

(Music)

It was like one of the most horrible times in my life. Prisons and bars and cells, it's hell to me, you know. That's like the worst place a person could be put.

(Music)

That's the whole reason me being a father to my child: to make sure he don't go through things I went through. Wouldn't make no sense for me to be there if he going to go through the same things I went through. That don't make no sense. That don't add up.

(Music)

(To Keith) Can you tell us who you are and what your relationship is to me?

KEITH: Keith Watson, younger brother.

BERNARD: Our parents split up when I was a baby. My dad was never around. We were always broke. So I started working when I was twelve.

KEITH: You did the catering, D'Agostinos on 35th and 3rd, Flavors at 18th Street.

BERNARD: My moms felt like any of the money coming into the house should go to her. She spent a lot of it on cigarettes. We fought constantly, but at least it turned me into a workaholic.

KEITH: You've had a number of jobs, at least twenty in the past three to four years. And not one firing.

(Music)

BERNARD: I'd been out of jail for five years when I met my girlfriend Aliyah. But I didn't really turn my life around until we had Tyreik. And even then it took me a while.

(To Aliyah) Can you just discuss how did I feel when you first told you was pregnant. How did I react?

ALIYAH: Mad. Angry. Didn't care.

BERNARD: So how did you feel when I first, in your eyes, started to show that I care and wanted to be there?

ALIYAH: I was happy. I needed you there. I appreciate that a lot.

BERNARD: And I appreciate everything you done for me and been there for me when I didn't really want to be part of it no more. And I love you for that. You know. I wouldn't trade you for nothing.

(Music)

I never write about my parents. At first I didn't even want to interview them. They weren't there for me so why should they be part of my story?

Then it was Tyreik's third birthday party. And they both showed up. Me and my pops was in the bedroom talking. Then my mom came in to get her coat. This was the thing I used to wish for when I was a kid: that the three of us could be together in the same room at the same time. There are questions I've wanted to ask them my whole life. I asked them if I could interview them. They agreed and I closed the door.

(Music)

Once I closed that door and both of them was in the room, it was kind of a different place. It was like we wasn't in the party; we wasn't in my house. We was sitting in my room, but it was like nothing else going on in the world at that time. The only thing that mattered at that time was just them and me and what was about to happen.

(Music)

Good evening. I'm fortunate enough to have my mother, Dolores Watson, and my father, George Anthony Skelton, in same room, at the same time. All right. For my dad, I just want know -- I know it wasn't because of me, but was because of responsibilities, or you and my mother wasn't getting along.

BERNARD'S FATHER: It's just at that time in our life, the roads went different ways. See you taking initiative for yourself and you standing up as a man, taking care of family. And for me to you as your father, I respect you.

BERNARD'S MOTHER: And Bernard, you've been with me since you've been born. You jumped over every obstacle that was put in your way. You're still doing it. You're not letting nothing stop you. Now your roads could have went different; they didn't. I respect you, and I love you more than you ever would know.

BERNARD: I thank you for that. And I love you more than you all would ever know. And all I want to do is just make my family proud and contribute as many things as possible to society in order to help others that can't help themselves, you know?

We sat on the edge of the bed, talking more and more. I felt pressure being lifted. I wanted to confess every little thing. And I mean little.

Remember when we was in Brooklyn and you was ironing your pants to go to work and somebody rung the doorbell and you came back and there was a hole in your gray pants and you asked me who did it and I told you the cat did it? I was trying help you out, because I know you was running behind for work and I didn't know the iron was so hot. I wound up putting a hole through them and I didn't want get in trouble, so I told you cat did it. And stuff like that. You know.

(Music)

But like I said, without you all combination, I wouldn't be possible. And without me, there wouldn't be Tyreik. And that's the most precious thing in my life. And I thank you all for being here today to share in my son's third birthday. And I love you all and I wish you all the best.

Maybe I'll give this tape to Tyreik in five or six more birthdays, or maybe eight or ten. This is my story, but it's his story too. For better or for worse, your parents are always part of your story.

(To Tyreik) Time to go to bed so you can go to school in the morning, okay? Lay down.

TYREIK: I love you.

BERNARD: I love you. Good night.

TYREIK: Good night.

HOST: Bernard is now twenty-four years old. His son Tyreik is three and attends pre-school in the Bronx.

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